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10 Effective Group Decision Making Techniques

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March 2022
10 Effective Group Decision Making Techniques

While some team leaders make decisions on their own, others prefer to open up the floor to get group members’ opinions. Making a decision as a group rather than independently can improve the quality of a decision.

A team leader entrusted with a significant decision gets to benefit from numerous opinions that can provide valuable input. It’s important to remember that effective group decision making techniques will initially lay out all the information needed to make the decision. No one should ever make a decision without considering points of view that do not align with their opinions.

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No matter your project, you’ll likely find a solution by using one of the group decision making techniques below.

What Is Group Decision-Making?

Group decision-making is a collective problem-solving process. It implies that a group of individuals collaborates to analyze a specific issue and examines multiple alternative ways to fix it. And after different opinions and options are carefully weighed, they manage to come to a solution that suits their case best.

Pros and Cons of Group Decision-Making

Group decision-making has its pros and cons.

Speaking of negatives, it can be extremely time-consuming and prone to groupthink. In other words, in the worst-case scenario, it may eat up an enormous portion of your business resources without providing any effective solutions.

However, when performed the right way, group decision-making helps you gain the following benefits:

  • Improved culture of collaboration,
  • Higher innovativeness,
  • Better team morale,
  • Stronger organizational knowledge,
  • Greater diversity of alternative solutions to choose from,
  • Easier organization-wide acceptance of the final decision.
group decision making techniques

How to Achieve Better Group Decision-Making?

1.   Make sure everyone gets it

Before anyone immediately speaks up, the details involving the decision need to be clear. No one should provide their opinion without first knowing what exactly the decision is regarding and who or what it impacts. Not only do the particulars of the decision need to be spelled out, but potential conflicts with no obvious resolution can also be highlighted, too. If a decision requires the group’s input, it means that the matter is significant enough and relates to the main objective of a project. Otherwise, a rather inconsequential decision can be made quickly and the need for getting all teammates involved. 

2.   Analyze the missing information

After the goal has been properly defined, and the group understands the significant hurdles and final objective, it’s time to start looking at possible solutions and strategies. At this stage, teammates will want to conduct a thorough examination of the available data and resources. Understanding the “why” behind the decision can help generate solutions. After all the facts are fleshed out, it will be easier to detect what details are missing. 

3.   Set the lowest attainable bar

Describe which details for a decision are non-negotiable. For example, the solution has to be possible given the team’s resources, particularly their budget and skills. Regardless, the answer has to propel the group closer to their objective instead of causing other issues that require additional fixing.

4.   Combine and generate ideas as a group

Get all teammates together in the group to openly discuss options. Consider different angles and approaches to making a decision. While it is possible to repeat group decision-making techniques used in the past, this stage allows teammates to present ideas on nontraditional methods. No opinion should be shut down or evaluated to encourage people to develop ideas. You don’t want teammates to fear speaking up, meaning there shouldn’t be any critiquing at this stage. 

5.   Consider all options

After all, ideas have been put forward, the most feasible options can be shortlisted after weighing each option’s pros and cons. This process isn’t as simple as it seems since specific pros and cons are not evenly weighted. For example, one solution may have a single pro but five cons, yet that single pro outweighs all of the cons. To simplify this process, the team leader can create a prioritized list of pros and cons.

6.   Take action

Ideally, the decision will be made unanimously based on the assessment completed in the last stage. However, this is usually not the case. Either at an earlier stage or during this stage, it will have to be determined what percentage of the group or which group members will have the final say in the decision. As mentioned, a unanimous decision is preferred in most cases, which is when every group member agrees. The following are other group decision-making techniques for finalizing a decision: 

  • Consensus: Each person ultimately gives the green light, yet some may hold reservations but decide to agree for the team’s best interests and to keep the project moving forward.
  • Majority Rules: A decision is made when more than half of the group agrees. It’s easier to arrive at a majority than a consensus, yet the risk is not having the team’s full continual support.   
  • Expert Decision: The group delegates a decision to an expert or another subgroup. This type of process is good for teammates who are not too invested in the decision because it is outside of their scope. 
  • Executive Decision: The team leader gets the final say. Usually, they receive input from all teammates and then use that information to find a solution. Ideally, the team leader makes the final decision that aligns with the group’s mission and vision.
  • Default Decision: If no decision-making technique is implemented, the result is forced action to arrive at a conclusion. This method is best to avoid at all costs since it would mean that a decision is being made without thoroughly considering its implications.

7.   Review and assess

Most managers fail at group decision-making partly because they forget to track their decisions. Avoid failure by monitoring the decision’s impact. If the decision is off to a good start, keep going. If not, go back to the drawing board and implement the second-best option and repeat the monitoring process. Ideally, the first selected solution will work properly; however, this final stage can often be one of a lengthy trial and error process until a permanent solution is implemented. 

Decision-making is one of the most challenging parts of working in a group. Although applying group decision-making techniques can be challenging, they can lead to a more beneficial outcome than an independently made decision. While a team leader might be tempted to come to a decision themselves to keep the project moving, It can be helpful to receive the input of others to get as many ideas as possible on how to approach a specific issue.

8. Use group decision making techniques

A group decision making technique is a team management approach to setting up and structuring group discussions and maximizing the quality of the collective work. Each technique is a set of rules that specifies the group interaction process, the use of time and resources. The ultimate goal of any decision making technique is to help every participant to put their ego aside and focus on generating right solutions together as a group.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Decision Making Techniques

Group decision making is not all about perks and benefits. Some decisions require leadership and expertise of a single person. So, let’s see what advantages and disadvantages of group decision making you may encounter. 

Advantages

  • Enhances a culture of collaboration
  • Encourages diversity in opinions
  • Increases interest and engagement
  • Fosters democratic decision making
  • Promotes team spirit

Disadvantages

  • Decisions take longer to be made 
  • Highly expensive due to having everyone’s attention 
  • Lowered efficiency: some participants will not contribute, others will be too dominant, some of the input will be biased
  • No one takes the responsibility for the decision

10 Best Group Decision Making Techniques

1.    Brainstorming

This decision making technique is the oldest in the book. Brainstorming has a loose structure compared to the other group decision making techniques below. It provides the opportunity for everyone to generate ideas and for them to feel comfortable coming forward with their opinions. A final decision is generally not made during a brainstorming session. Instead, the process initiates the decision making process. Often, this process is combined with another group decision-making technique to eventually arrive at an agreement.

2.    Charette Procedure

The Charette Procedure is a play on brainstorming, but rather than gathering as a larger single group; people are organized into smaller groups. This ensures that everyone receives the same opportunity to speak up. Some people tend to hog brainstorming sessions by being the ones who talk the most frequently. Once all groups have had the chance to brainstorm, you later regroup, and the smaller groups present their ideas.

3.    Nominal Group Technique

This group decision making technique is a structured process that involves several steps. Usually, the group will identify the problem being addressed and begin brainstorming, similar to the above two group decision making techniques. From there, the ideas are open for discussion, and then the group votes. The final decision with the most amount of votes is selected. This group decision making technique is useful because it comes from both individual and group thinking methods.

4.    Delphi Technique

The Delphi technique leaves the decision making up to a panel of experts. Experts provide their opinions to questions over multiple rounds. After each round, their opinions are shared with the rest of the group. Following the group’s interpretation, the experts can modify their responses to each topic. The final result is meant to be an expert’s interpretation combined with the group’s findings. As the group members’ submitted opinions are anonymous, it limits discussions being dominated by few group members only, such as during brainstorming sessions. However, the questions and options collected make the Delphi technique a lengthy process.

5.    Hartnett’s Consensus Oriented Decision Making (CODM) Model

This model involves facilitating several steps to generate a consensus among the group. The first steps involve framing the problem and having an open discussion to generate as many solutions as possible. From there, the group can identify underlying concerns regarding the decision, such as the impact on stakeholders. The group moves on to developing proposals, selecting a direction, and then developing the preferred solution to close the decision making process. Harnett’s model can be effective for reaching a decision but requires a lot of effort and time.

6.    Bain’s RAPID Framework

RAPID stands for recommend, agree, perform, input and decide. The recommend step allows group members to make suggestions for actions or decisions, following which the group must agree upon one of the decisions. After the recommendations, the group will execute by performing. The group will provide their input on the decision’s impact, and the persons involved in the group become accountable for the whole execution process. This method is often used for more complex decisions.

7.    Put It to a Vote

This method is much simpler than the acronym techniques above when simpler decisions must be made that involve a yes or no to get started. The information necessary to make the decision is presented, and then the group votes on their preferred option. This technique is one of the faster methods that could be transformed into an email and does not require a formally scheduled meeting.

8.    The Stepladder Technique

The stepladder method encourages individuals to provide their opinion before being swayed by anyone else’s in a larger group setting. The process begins with two members of the group who meet privately to discuss their opinions, then at every step, a new group member is added. The approach encourages equal participation and to avoid the pitfall of groupthink.

9.    Rank the Possibilities

Before getting together as a group, everyone submits their rankings on the preferred options relating to the decision. Everyone’s results are taken into account, and the team leader determines the average group rankings for each decision. Often, the members debate the top three rankings until they reach a decision as a group. Using this method can be helpful for decisions that entail numerous options.

10.    Pros and Cons

Another one of the simpler group decision making techniques, this method works just as well for individual decisions as it does for group decisions. Groups can get together and discuss pros and cons. They can pick a decision after considering all of the advantages and disadvantages of each decision. Making pros and cons lists in a group setting might influence other teammates to reconsider their decision if they overlooked a disadvantage.

Best Practices of Group Decision Making

While some risks and drawbacks are inevitable, there are still ways to improve group decision making. Let’s see what are some of the best practices to apply during your next session:

  • Be clear about the decision to be made
  • Establish decision criteria
  • Break the group into subgroups from time to time
  • Respect participants’ time
  • Be sure all opinions are respected
  • Don’t allow one or two people to dominate all discussion

Ready to Make Better Group Decisions?

While the decision making process forms a helpful part of a project, it’s best not to get too caught up in the decision making process. Your time is valuable and better spent on getting more productive work done. As project management software, actiTIME can be useful for tracking how much time you and your team members spend on group decision making. You can record these hours and based on the results, and modify accordingly to ensure that you are making the most of your time. actiTIME helps you keep everything on track, including time allocated towards making decisions and beyond.

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